Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Hogmanay Letter.




Dear ones,

 it's that time after Christmas that stretches into the first week or so of the new year when I think back over the last twelve months and feel inescapably tragic. No matter if it has been a good twelve months or a bad twelve months or (more commonly) an untanglable mixture of the two, the weight of the year past descends upon me and I feel heavy, as heavy as if I were being asked to live it all over again in the space of a week.

 This year has been longer than most. We started it in London in a pretty bad way – stretched, sad, exhausted, scared, fairly legitimately tragic. We scrambled and we fought to get ourselves packed and organised and ready to leave the life that was filling our pockets with more and more rocks every day and we did it; after three months of painting and building and planting and crying we stuffed our bags and closed the door, said goodbye to the garden and the home that we had tried to build (some pieces more successfully than others) and handed the keys to our year's work and life's savings over to a bunch of only moderately suspect tenants.


 We boarded planes and ferries and planes again - sometimes together and sometimes apart - and fell face first into Nye's parents' arms and home where we lay whimpering and shaking and drinking wine like France had run out of water. It was supposed to be three months but it turned into six, three months being not nearly long enough to recover from the preceding hundreds. I'm still trying to make sense of them but I probably never will, they were six months out of a life otherwise lived elsewhere. They were six months that were purely, intensely, unfathomably their own (très français) thing. Seductive and restorative and alienating and exhausting, they both tempted us with the desire to turn them into our next six years and sent us running for a place we knew better, a place for want of a better word, less foreign.


 And so again we were packing our bags and our boxes and our car. Wrapping the speakers and the hard drives in tea towels, stacking the books and squashing the cuddly toys into the spaces in between. Washing and folding the clothes outgrown, the summer things that would in all reality not be needed again while they still fitted and packing them into bags for the charity shop. Dismantling bikes, taking photos from the fridge door, secretly filing a thousand drawings of the dog and the swimming pool into the recycling. Boarding planes alone again with two small, bewildered children and watching my husband drive off, the work of his past few months bouncing along on a trailer behind him. Saying goodbye to somewhere that like the home before it had been so many things to me, both wonderful and terrible. A place that had taught me that nowhere is perfect, that however hard we look a home is never going to be heaven all of the time, that even a landscape gifted to you by the gods can and will turn into a prison of occasion and that maybe it was time to accept and learn to live with that.


 Stepping off the first plane into Bristol we stumbled again into the arms of family, again we drank wine and again sighs of relief were prickled with tears of separation while bone deep exhaustion settled over us as we drifted to sleep on the floor. Another plane, another journey alone with little children and we were almost there, desperate to be reunited again with my husband, their daddy who had driven across two countries. Together, in a state of weary confusion and displacement and with the help of my mum whose quiet home we invaded with our chaos, we got ready for the final stretch of our journey and a convoy of two cars trailed slowly through the Highlands, mountains and lochs and deer and sheep leading the way to the ferry terminal, a long concrete strip buzzing with fishermen bringing in catches and seagulls busy spreading their detritus. In the back of one of those cars shivered a small, smelly puppy with ridiculous ears who had been found along the way and collected that morning in an act of hope and serendipity colliding. Ten years of talking about a dog and finally, finally, we had one.

 We arrived in the dark, having sailed into the sunset and out of the other side. Driving across the moors in the pitch of a night unlit by street lamps, the ghostly antlers and luminous eyes of red deer, the low swooping of owls and the darting of rabbits from the road welcomed us to their island. The next morning that same road disappeared into the grey of an October sunrise and in our pyjamas we threw a ball in the garden, marvelling at the thick blanket, the rolling tide of mist from whence our new home was peering.



This year has been a long year. We have moved and we have moved. We have rested in a way that we have never rested before, we have quit and we have stalled and we have tried to start over again. We have made the best of what we have and we have worked hard on accepting - accepting decisions mis-made, situations mis-handled, directions mis-taken. We are looking into a new year (like every other damn person) not knowing what will come and being, finally, okay with that, hopeful that this will be one of new starts but that not a single one of those starts will require a boarding card.

 I have dreams big and dreams small for 2016, the list is endless but these are some that come to mind; to see more of the people I love, to find a home and put up a picture, to sell my photography but not my soul, to train the dog to walk at heel, to find a mascara that works for me, a pair of jeans that fit and a job that pays me actual money. To hold the newborn baby of my oldest friends and cry quiet tears of joy into his or her soft little head. To learn to drive, make sourdough bread and joint a chicken (not all at the same time). To climb more sand dunes, chase more waves, eat more foods that scare me. To go slow and enjoy it, to go fast and enjoy that too. To fill a sketchbook. To find my place in this endless landscape, to enjoy the space that has opened up around me and allow myself to fill as much of it as I need. To shout less, or at least with a little more direction, to join the library and knit something in the round. The list goes on and always will.

 Happy New Year friends. Thank you for being with me this year, for leaving your words of encouragement and commiseration and support. For offering me your tales of failure and your dreams of success. For being there when I quit and being there when I tried to start again. Every word you have left here has been a gift to me, a gift to each other and I hope you know that they are always, always appreciated. As this year ends I wish you all a few moments of peace to think about all that has past, to ready yourselves for all that lies ahead. I wish for at least 30% of your dreams to come true, if not this year then the next or the next or the next again and for those dreams that aren't for you to be let go with all of the grace or anger or dismay that they deserve, for as my Granny says, what's for you won't go by you. 

 See you on the other side my friends, see you on the other side. x